By Voices - Do the Collapse
the entire 13 years of his band's existence, GBV have continued
to be the first and foremost in combining the "lo-fi" sound
with '60s pop influences and lyrics that make absolutely no
real sense. But their albums, though full of good ideas, have
resembled less of a musical statement and more of a catalog
- until now. Lead vocalist and songwriter Robert Pollard has
brought in a ringer - ex-Cars leader Ric Ocasek - to produce
Do the Collapse and play the occasional keyboard, and
he couldn't have made a better choice; the results are astounding.
Not only have Guided By Voices made their most accessible
album ever, but they've done it without even an ounce of mainstream
concession. Back in his days with the Cars, Ocasek was often
struggling with his bandmates and record label on these exact
issues. For the most part, he lost - although no one can argue
with all the great pop the Cars made, it was a band that often
sacrificed its desire to take a few more risks with its music
at the expense of the big hit.
the Collapse is, one would imagine, exactly the sort of
record Ocasek would have wanted to make. In fact, the insistent
guitar wall of sound that opens "Mushroom Art" bears more
than a passing resemblance to the Cars' "Strap Me In," but
this is still very a much a Guided By Voices album. The lo-fi
vibe remains, but the band sounds far more proficient. Pollard's
eerie voice remains, but the occasional sense of "Look ma,
I've made a record!" has been replaced by the certainty of
listening to a professional songwriter. The odd titles and
obscure images remain, but they sometimes actually mean something.
The 30 second patches of potentially good ideas for 3 minute
songs are now 3 minute songs themselves. it's as if the old
Guided By Voices (still very much worth listening to, incidentally)
were struck by lightning and instantly given the power to
capitalize on their dreams.
what are the clever pop concoctions that Pollard has finally
made? For starters, there's the paranoid angst of "Teenage
FBI" - "Someone tell me why / I do the things that I don't
wanna do?" Then there's the grunge-ish "Liquid Indian," and
"Optical Hopscotch," both holding their own with most soft-verse,
loud-chorus anthems this decade has become famous for. There's
the mockingly cheesy torch ballad "Hold On Hope," equally
inspirational and ridiculous. There's the infatuation imagery
of "Wrecking Now," which in an alternative world would be
playing in the background during a 'meaningful' teen drama
show. Best of all is "Surgical Focus," a psychedelic rocker
with a wild, unpredictable but impeccably crafted melody that's
as near perfect as most mere pop songs get - it begins "With
surgical focus / she stared at me and said / I'm willing to
reach out / get into your head" and end with "Climbing high
upon the rocky cliffs / we fly with surgical focus." The album
ends with the somewhat biographical "An Unmarketed Product,"
and the warning "Well, I can give you credit… and if you have
any luck, you'll get ahead before you're dead." How can you
not love this irony?
else can be emphasized save for a reassurance that GBV has
not 'sold out' in any sense. Rather, they have, as the album
title suggests, done the collapse into a thinking person's
pop band; intelligent, incisive, and focused. Surgically focused.
4.0 out of